*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Working at a call center is hard. Customers don't call because they feel satisfied with a company's services. They call because they feel dissatisfied, and they want to complain. Unfortunately, my job was fielding phone calls from the angriest customers. It made for a very unpleasant workday. I hated it.
As if working there wasn't unpleasant enough, I had two coworkers with smelly feet who refused to keep their shoes on. They made me sick.
One offender sat directly beside me. We each had our own low-walled cubicle. The walls were approximately waist high while standing and shoulder high while sitting.
In other words, when my closest coworker kicked off his shoes beneath his desk, the cubicle walls failed to protect me from the smell. It was rancid.
Although I never saw his feet, with or without shoes, I could always tell when they made their appearance by the odor. It was strong enough to make me gag and make my eyes water.
I never complained to management about it, but if I had worked there one day longer, I might have. The smell made me physically ill, and I am surprised I worked under those conditions for as long as I did.
Having one coworker with painfully malodorous feet would have been plenty, but there were two of them. Besides the man who sat immediately to my right, there was a stinky-footed woman who worked on the other side of the room.
She sat far enough away from me that I should never have been able to smell her. On a day-to-day basis, that was true. However, we held frequent office meetings in the large cafeteria, and she always chose a seat beside me on those occasions.
"So nice to see you," she'd announce before flopping into the chair next to me. It wouldn't be long before the aroma of smelly feet would hit my nose.
I'd try to appear casual, glancing down at her feet to see what shoes she wore. I needed to know whether she wore socks. She never wore socks.
As soon as the meeting began, I'd smell the unmistakable smell of unwashed coworker feet. I'd look down and see that she had slipped one or both leather mules off. The inside soles of her shoes always looked disgusting, oily, worn, and darker than the surrounding material.
They looked like the shoes of someone with smelly feet, which wasn't a coincidence. That's exactly what they were.
Office meetings should have been my respite from my cubicle neighbor with his stinky feet, but it was only a matter of getting out of the frying pan and into the fire for me. The woman who sat beside me during meetings smelled even worse than the man who sat beside me at all other times.
I couldn't escape. To this day, I cannot believe anyone could be so unaware of the smell of their feet. Is it possible they knew and simply didn't care? What do you think?